Need to Know: August 16, 2022


You might have heard: Information security cultures in many newsrooms are nascent (Columbia Journalism Review) 

But did you know: What big media can learn from small startups about digital safety in newsrooms (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism) 

Nearly a decade after Edward Snowden’s revelations about global surveillance, traditional newsrooms still struggle with information safety while newer, small outlets have thrived, writes Paul Farrell. From interviews with newsroom leaders, security experts and journalists from around the world, Farrell concludes that there are five key elements to developing a strong infosec culture — leaders who prioritize security, an editorial process that considers digital security risks, workflows that make it easy for journalists to use secure tools, harm minimization strategies to diminish and reduce the risks of online and physical attacks, and a strong security mindset throughout the organization. 


Nuestro Estado meets needs of Spanish-speaking audience (It’s All Journalism) 

Fernando Soto started Nuestro Estado to provide resources and information about hurricanes to Spanish-speaking residents in Charleston, South Carolina. As demand increased for this information, Soto, the website’s CEO and publisher, faced a huge problem. How could Nuestro Estado scale up to meet the needs of its rapidly growing audience? Soto spoke with Michael O’Connell about how the outlet increased capacity to ensure the information it published was accurate, timely and culturally competent in order to better serve its community. Read the case study on Better News, which showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes and shares replicable strategies that can benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ Take our survey: What do you need to cover election- and democracy-related issues in a more effective way? API is surveying newsrooms about their election coverage needs, and will use the findings to inform projects and assistance to newsrooms during the coming election season. Take the survey here. 

+ Final Reminder: The deadline is tomorrow for applying for small grants through our Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund, an initiative to help newsrooms improve and deepen their relationships with their communities in this year’s elections. 


The Texas Tribune lays out what readers expect from its elections coverage (The Texas Tribune) 

Ahead of this fall’s elections, The Texas Tribune is laying out five ways that it hopes its coverage will “empower informed participation in our democracy.” This includes publishing election-specific voter guides to explain the voting process, using reader feedback to inform election and politics coverage, providing historical and legal context to hold politicians accountable, prioritizing coverage where it can be most helpful and carefully verifying facts to combat misinformation and disinformation. “Reporting is difficult,” it said. “Our pledge is to make our best effort to get this right and give you the context you need to understand the issues politicians are debating and the veracity and significance of the claims they make.”


How ‘War on Fakes’ uses fact-checking to spread pro-Russia propaganda (Poynter) 

War on Fakes is a supposed fact-checking service that appeared after shortly Russia invaded Ukraine. While the site claims to be dissecting falsehoods and providing unbiased information, PolitiFact says that it actually distributes pro-Russia disinformation. Using well-known Russian propaganda techniques, which Luiz Romero describes as “incoherence, a high volume of claims, repetition and the statement of obvious falsehoods,” the site aims to create confusion about the war in Ukraine by hijacking the fact-checking format to push falsehoods and generate an overwhelming amount of incoherent content. 


How fighting over grammar can help fix a divided America (Los Angeles Times)

In 2018, Ellen Jovin began hosting pop-up grammar-advice stands around the country. The goal was to invite conversations about elements of grammar and rule on questions about Oxford commas, for example, or “lose” versus “loose.” In traveling to 47 states, she found that these simple discussions helped bring together people who may have had almost nothing else in common. “The small bonds that come from mowing someone’s lawn, holding an elevator door or making verbs agree with their subjects support the larger connections we need for our communities to thrive,” she writes. 


How NewsGuard boosts the American disinformation economy (Check My Ads) 

Until recently, media ratings company NewsGuard rated Fox News as a “trustworthy” outlet; in July, they downgraded Fox to “Proceed with Caution.” Nandini Jammi and Claire Atkin of adtech watchdog Check My Ads say the lag in downgrading Fox News — and the decision to downgrade MSNBC at the same time — stems from the company’s desire to appear unbiased. This perspective, Jammi and Atkin argue, has led NewsGuard to favorably rate websites like The Daily Signal and The Daily Caller that spread misinformation and push a right-wing ideology. “NewsGuard is taking the ad industry down an increasingly dangerous path,” write Jammi and Atkin. “Its rating system is not just incompatible with the ad industry’s brand safety, it’s incompatible with public safety.” 


His website skewers Stockton politicians and agencies. Then one gave him a cushy job (Los Angeles Times) 

Motecuzoma Patrick Sanchez runs 209 Times, a website in Stockton, California that blurs the line between journalism and personal branding. The site “punishes Sanchez’s enemies, rewards his friends and often celebrates the work of its owner and founder,” writes James Rainey. Local activists have criticized the site for “poisoning political debate” in the community, and Sanchez for taking a job with the local school district and showering its leaders positive coverage on his site. Sanchez has dismissed the criticisms, including this article, as an “old guard” tactic designed to discredit community journalists.